Mayor of Hackney: Hackney Council is a place where bullying, and discrimination will not be tolerated

The Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, responds to the announcement that the trade unions have withdrawn their support for the ongoing independent investigation into allegations of bullying and discrimination.

Hackney Council is a place where racism, bullying, and discrimination will not be tolerated.

In the light of some of the recent claims being made by the trade unions in Hackney, I think it’s important to state that, without any ambiguity.

This is an organisation where diversity is valued, where tackling inequalities is at the heart of my mayoral priorities, and at the heart of everything we do. Our track record speaks for itself.

Our groundbreaking Young Black Men programme, working with the voluntary sector, is a national exemplar, exploring and tackling the causes and effects of inequality. We were the first council in the UK to pass a motion on the Windrush scandal, and this weekend hosted a national event supporting justice for our Windrush communities. Since I became Mayor, I have appointed the most diverse Cabinet Hackney has seen. Our last external review under the LGA’s Equalities Framework rated us as ‘excellent’ and said that ‘equalities is in Hackney’s DNA.’

That is a record to be proud of but, as Mayor, I am not prepared to take any of this for granted. Whilst I am confident that Hackney Council values its diverse workforce, and whilst we are very active in support of marginalised communities, I know that there are some of our staff, albeit a small proportion, who do not always feel valued or supported. We have done targeted work in response to these concerns since 2017, and know through BAME and disabled staff focus groups that there are still perceived barriers to progression in the Council. We are aware that we do not have enough diversity in the senior management structure.

All of those things are under focus, and with clear action plans in place, both to recruit a more diverse workforce at all levels, and to foster a culture of inclusive leadership so all staff can flourish and succeed. Cllr Carole Williams has led the development of this work, and this spring, the Council is launching an inclusive leadership champions programme to embed good practice and better understanding across the whole Council, alongside an action plan to achieve a more diverse workforce - which will include actions to make the workplace more welcoming and inclusive for disabled staff and to encourage BAME staff to progress in the organisation.

We are launching a new campaign to boost local recruitment, and make sure our workforce, at all levels, better reflects the communities we serve. Our Hackney apprentices scheme has seen the first reversal in the decline of our local workforce in 15 years, which is something to be celebrated. Having met this new cohort I’ve seen first hand that this programme itself has delivered on our ambition to open up opportunities in a whole range of professions for Hackney people, many of whom suffer from disadvantage or inequality.

There is a huge amount of focus and commitment from senior managers, and from me and my Cabinet colleagues, to make Hackney Council as inclusive as it possibly can be, as was shown in the year’s worth of work undertaken alongside the unions to put in place new policies and training around bullying and harassment. In an organisation of this size and complexity, there will always be challenges, but to meet them, we need to work together.

That’s why I am saddened by the decision made by our colleagues in the unions to withdraw their support from the independent investigation into their allegations, before it has published its findings. Both myself and the Chief Executive have met with them on a regular basis, listened to their concerns, and responded with actions to ensure that the investigation was independent, and would be published and acted upon. I would urge them and their members to reconsider and see an independent process that they help start through to the end.

I am not going to preempt the outcome of that investigation, but it’s important that, whatever the outcome, we acknowledge that whatever we are doing to tackle inequality and improve workplace wellbeing, we can always do more.

Today, I have announced to the UNISON AGM that the Chief Executive will introduce diversity and inclusive leadership training for all managers in the organisation, both new and existing, and we will involve staff in the development of this training. It shows we are always listening and demonstrates a firm commitment from the Council to make sure that this is a supportive, inclusive workplace, and I absolutely welcome it.

As Mayor, I am committed to making Hackney a place where everyone who lives here can succeed and thrive. That commitment is not just to our residents. It is extended to our workplace, and to every individual who works at Hackney Council.

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney